are part of my life. They appear in my narration as any other
human character. Similarly human presence could be felt in my
birding recounting. Birds have been portrayed as having
intellect and character as they are, in my writings. I haven’t
perceived bird watching as an amateur or ornithologist pursuit.
Nature is always portrayed as main character in my novels and
short-stories’. These words of Sri. K
renowned author in Kannada language, a language practiced by
some 50 million people, mostly in Southern India, aptly represents
his inquisitiveness on birds and nature.
many educated Indians, Tejaswi settled in Western Ghats
(Chikkamagalur district, Karnataka) in the guise of farming to
continue his foremost love - exploration. He was a person of
multifaceted interest - Creative writing, Farming, Painting, Music,
Photography, Fishing, Technology, Publishing, etc. He eagerly
responded to the problems faced by
the nature, humans and actively involved in many populist movements.
His father’s (Kuvempu) love of nature, influenced him at an early
age, and inspired him to enter into the infinite field of nature. His
five decades of nature observations
is reflected in most of his popular science books, short stories and
novels. Here is an attempt to compile some rare ones,
especially bird related instances, as all are unique in nature and
many are recorded nowhere
Fig: Sri K Poornachandra Tejaswi (Center).
Blue Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
and female Small Blue Kingfishers Alcedo
atthis shares the nest building, incubation
and rearing activity. While preparing a nest hole, one bird
excavates, shifts the mud to midway, the other collects and dumps far
away. Nests are very dirty. Chicks consume fleshy part of
fishes, and bone remains, produce stinking smell in the nest.
The chicks defecate by
ejecting out of the nest hole in order to keep the nest clean,
however the fish bones are not cleared by parents. The growing chicks
are infested with lice and ticks. On each sortie after
providing feed, adults bathe with many dipping in the water to get
rid of pests passed on from chicks. Depending on the direction
of fish head in its bill, one can visualize whether the feed is for
self or for the brood; fish head facing kingfisher means food for
self and away means for the brood.
Fig: Small Blue Kingfisher
Water-hen Amaurornis phoenicurus
White-breasted Water-hen, black in colour emerged from the eggs
during parents absence. At that moment, Tejaswi was in hide to
photograph the nesting birds. Not finding their parents nearby,
both the chicks uttered a call ‘pick … pick’. From a
distance beyond the water body where nest was located, adult answered
the call. Communication continued for a while. New born
chicks started traveling towards their parent on water surface like a
floating flower (true to Precocial(=Nidifugous) nestlings behaviour).
Fig: White-breasted Water-hen
Woodpecker Celeus brachyurus
Rufous Woodpecker Celeus brachyurus
is entirely different from that of other Woodpeckers. The nest
constructed by arboreal ant
accommodates the breeding Woodpecker. Crematogasters don’t harm the
adults or fledglings. The predatory ants protect the host plant by
driving away many pests. Farmers pick up the nest in dark hours
and place it in their kitchen garden to safeguard the vegetable crop
from rats and squirrels. Insecticides used in Coffee plantations are
harmful to these ants intern affecting Rufous Woodpeckers
During courtship male
Woodpeckers attracts the females by
a different chiseling pattern, heard as drumming than customary
feeding habit. In music, drummers produce different talas like eka
tala, aadi tala, tri tala!, same way Woodpeckers produces rhythm.
Small Blue Kingfisher
Alcedo atthis & Stork-billed
Kingfisher Halcyon capensis
introduction of smaller sized fingerlings to a newly constructed
small pond within in a farm, very next day, a pair of Small Blue
Kingfishers appeared for fishing. Really it is surprising, how
did the kingfisher get the message of fingerlings’ release?
Tejaswi opines that, it is not that we humans observe them, it is
other way round, in fact other living beings do study us. In next few
days Toads appeared, together with kingfishers they completely
cleared off the fingerlings released. Subsequently, bigger
fingerlings were introduced so that they can withstand the assault of
natural predators. On the third day a hefty Stork-billed Kingfisher
appeared. It caught a fish bigger than its head, smashed and
swallowed it. It’s amazing to notice the chain of actions and
reactions taking place when one tries to introduce new species,
whether local or exotic, to a new area.
Lesser Pied Kingfisher
A Lesser Pied Kingfisher
Ceryle rudis can fish
in deeper water than a Small Blue Kingfisher that can fish
comfortably in very shallow and narrow streams.
Fig: Stork-billed Kingfisher
& White-breasted Water-hen Amaurornis
was made to convert a marshy area adjoining a stream into paddy
field. The moment seeds were sown, it attracted many Spotted Dove
eagerly devouring all the seeds spread, and hardly very few
sprouted. Consequently, the seedling plot was covered with
meshes and succeeded in growing seedling defeating Dove. Then
seedlings were transplanted in to the prepared field. Aquatic
weeds’ thriving well on the upper part of the stream is a good
breeding ground for many White-breasted Water-hens Amaurornis
phoenicurus. Consequently, the transplanted
paddy-field was more or less completely devoured by
these Water-hens. Paddy cultivation was abandoned for ever in the
Fig: Spotted Dove
weaver bird Ploceus philippinus
Congenial habitat with
ever-available food is conducive to all types of population
increase. In the last 4-5 decades, after the construction of
Lakkavalli and Gajanur dams in Shimoga district, vast area came under
irrigation; and, crops are grown throughout the year. Prolific
increase in Baya weaver bird Ploceus
philippinus population could be attributed to
the phenomenon. Sugar cane provided nesting material and Rice,
helped to increase the population many fold.
Vernal hanging Parrot
Vernal hanging Parrot
Loriculus vernalis are
fond of Hibiscus spp
buds. These birds pluck and drop the flowers after sucking
nectar and pollen consumed. With in the foliage they walk and forage,
but never take to wings while moving within the foliage.
Malabar Pied Hornbill
A female Malabar Pied
Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
without any feathers on its body was found in a hollow cavity of a
large fallen tree. Female Hornbills shed their feathers during
breeding as they are concealed inside a dark cavity for a minimum 40
Detailed breeding biology is not reported on Malabar Pied Hornbill.
However, on the basis of Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros
(Mudappa 2000) has total nesting period of 86 days including post
hatching phase of 46 days, it is assumed that Malabar Pied incubates
40 days almost equal to studied bird.
stage, he questions himself –all the living beings are most energy
efficient, evolved during the evolutionary process spread over
millions of years, then why did heavy and large bills (Casques)
adorned by Hornbills have not
changed? Known answer is large bills of Hornbills (Ocyceros,
Anthracoceros & Buceros spp in India and
many other species of world.) are useful to amplify the calls and
effectively communicate in the thick forests. Calls are languages
used to perform a variety of functions like establishment and
maintenance of territory through advertisement or could be for
attracting a male. Hornbills breed in crevices in larger trees. The
bills of Hornbill are effective tools used for transferring food to
female and chicks during incubation and rearing.
It is believed that this structure acts as a vibrating chamber to
make the hornbill's voice louder. The calls made by the bird range
from the deep booming sounds they make as they begin foraging
to brays, toots, bellows, and cackles. The bill and casque of
birds are underdeveloped, and females often have much smaller casques
than males. This may be because males also use their casques to
attract mates and display their health and strength to other males.
Fig: Malabar Grey Hornbill
Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni
strikes the combs of social wasps (spp?). An enormous papery comb
hanging from trees opens up due to the impact and spills the
residents. Disturbed and enraged wasps retaliates the attacking
birds. After striking the wasp comb, opportunistic Bee-eaters perch
on a branch nearby and gulp down the retaliating wasps. If
retaliators are more in number bee-eaters move slightly away and
continue to gulp. Foraging pattern followed by
other three common Bee-eaters found, Small Green, Blue tailed and
Chestnut headed (Merops orientalis, M.
philippinus, M. leschenaultia) is different;
they select a place where wasps and bees are active in search of food
and position themselves to predate.
Little Spider Hunter
Little Spider Hunter
is the only bird that can sip nectar of Banana flowers because of its
lengthy curved beak.
Lesser Pied Kingfisher
& Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
was trying to fish in the river Hemavathi for almost an hour; but
didn’t succeed. It rested on a small heap on the bank facing deep
water. A larger fish, like a black shadow was moving towards the
water-edge where bird was resting. Since the observer was on an
elevated location above the river, he was able to visualize the
happenings. It was a big Ophiocephalus
marulius fish (Avalu in Kannada). Predatory
and carnivorous Ophiocephalus marulius
(Avalu), Wallago attu
(Bale) and Haddu fishes (Spp?) are found in rivers. Although the bird
was observing the movement of the fish, it didn’t perceive any
danger and neglected it. The dorsal fin of the fish was exposed out
of water as it neared the bird. The fish came very close to the bird
and straight away jumped out of water in the direction of perching
kingfisher but missed the target and landed on the sand bank.
The bird dashed off in a lightning speed. After the futile attempt,
the fish jumped back into water, in contrast to Tejaswi’s guess
that it would move like a snake. After sometime, a Little Egret
arrived into the shallow part of the river water for foraging.
The hunter fish reappeared within few minutes and started moving
towards the egret. Sensing the danger, the egret moved fast to
a safe distance. The fish was circling in the water for prey.
Foraging egret continued walking along the river, with predator fish
following it. Sensing danger, Egret left the foraging ground.
feed on eggs, chicks and adult birds. On some occasions, a group of
birds attack the snake on prowl and successfully drive it out and
save the clutch. Most of the time, Bulbuls give advance alarm and
Drongos’ lead the attacking team.
climb a tree with the help of their toes and tail combination. Same
combination hinders the movement while descending, moving on parallel
branches and on ground, it looks like hopping.
Trogons make nest in dead
wood. Some time they occupy smaller nests used by
other birds. However the nests are modified to suit its size.
In difference to other
forest birds, Barbets Megalaima spp
roost at night in tree holes.
White-backed and Black-throated Munias Lonchura
malabarica, Lonchura striata, Lonchura Malacca
construct dormitories for family stay, using coarse grass in globular
shape of the size of a football a height of 2 m in thick shrubs.
Rarely birds up to thirty, roost in these nests.
Fig: White cheeked Barbet
Never befriend wild
wild birds are afraid of human beings; our slightest movement
against, drives them away. A Sandpiper (Actitis/Tringa
spp?) used to be present on the riverbank
where Tejaswi and his friends were fishing. Once they offered a
very tiny fish to the Sandpiper. Astonishingly, after a few
minutes of dilemma, overcoming its immense fear imbibed by the
evolutionary intuition of not accepting offered food, the bird
accepted the fish and ate it. Over a period, it became an avid
follower. It was so habituated that even an act of throwing, used to
attract the sandpiper from far off distance. At this stage,
Tejaswi and his friends had a feeling that friendship might pose a
danger to the bird if it approaches a stranger. They try to keep
a distance but it was too late. Tragically, the Sandpiper met a sad
end. It swallowed the fishing hook with a bite, assuming it as a
morsel of food offered to it and died instantly in front of their
eyes. A point was proven again that human friendship would always
spell a doom to the wild creatures. So, never befriend wild
animals, it will definitely harm them.
Robins Copsychus saularis
Magpie Robins Copsychus saularis
build their nests in the crevice of tailed roof houses in Western
Ghats. This leads to water leakage during rainy days. As a
precautionary measure, people are destroying the nests in the initial
Green Pigeon Treron
population of Green Pigeon Treron spp
could be attributed to disappearance of Ficus trees. Planting and
nursing of these trees has come to standstill as there is no timber
or economical value. Hence no one - neither villagers nor department
is interested to propagate the Ficus trees.
Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia
Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia
swallows fruits of Vateria indica
(Dhoopa) larger than its head with the help of extendable gullet and
gape. It feeds on very few selected thurchi, ugani (kannada
names of trees) fruits of moist and evergreen forests. Drastic
reduction in their population is observed in the recent years due to
absence of these fruiting trees in the forests and coffee
plantations. These soft wooded trees have been selectively Fig: Green Pigeon
forest department and plantation owners to augment the supplies to
Plywood and Match factories.
disease that blinds the eyes first, wipes out the village poultry.
And it also attacks wild birds. Gradually swelling eyes of
Magpie Robins Copsychus saularis
deters foraging and the bird dies within a week. A few Grey
Jungle Fowls Gallus sonneratii
were also found dead due to the disease.
Woodpeckers & Barbets help in
pest control and protect the trees. They make a nest hole in a dead
tree but never in a living tree. Clearing dead trees from
forests and farms will be detrimental to these birds.
Increase in population of
Spotted Doves Streptopelia chinensis
could be attributed to decrease in hunting. Drastic increase in the
bullet cost has brought down the intense of hunting small birds like
Doves, after all its economics!
A folk story
on Woodpeckers - A folk story about woodpeckers goes like this; Once
Lord Shiva was dancing to the beat of ‘damaruga’, his favorite
typical drum. During the course, it fell and he requested the
woodpecker to give background music to his dance. Woodpecker
obliged and dancing continued. After some time, it turned into a
competition between Lard Shiva and woodpecker. Unable to dance to the
tune of Woodpecker, Lord Shiva slipped and strained his leg, and
desecrated the Woodpecker to continue drumming for ever. So, we
find them always drumming.
splendid work of Salim Ali, Tejaswi opines that finding new bird
species other than listed by
him in Indian sub-continent would be Hercules task. Even in the
present tech-savy scenario, with so many individuals interested in
birds, NGOs and Government institutions, we are unable to
update/recheck the birding status of area where Salim Ali had once
conducted earliest surveys.
and further reading:
Mudappa, D. 2000:
Breeding biology of Malabar Grey Hornbill. JBNHS 97(1):15-24
Parisarada kathegalu, 1991 (Nature stories); Kannada nadina
hakkigalu, 1996 (Birds of Karnataka - part 1 & 2); Maya loka,
2006 (Magic world): Publishers - Pustaka prakashana, Mysore 570